After last night’s 6-1 win against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Los Angeles Dodgers can complete another sweep if they win tonight. For them to complete that sweep, they must keep playing the same dominant baseball they have throughout the series.
Keep the top of the Cubs’ order quiet
The Dodgers have silenced the Cubs’ bats. Through the first three games, the Dodgers have struck out 32 Cubs hitters and walked just four. As a team, the Cubs have hit an abysmal 15 for 94, leading to a batting average of .160 and an on-base percentage of .202.
Since Alex Wood will start tonight for the Dodgers, the Cubs will likely have a lineup similar to the ones used in Games 1 and 2 with Jon Jay leading off, followed by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora. Of the mainstays in the Cubs lineup, only Almora has done any damage this series.
The Cubs have only scored when they have hit home runs. Since the top half of the order has struggled to get on base, Chicago’s power surge has merely been a slight inconvenience to the Dodgers. If the Dodgers want to complete the sweep tonight, their pitchers must continue to limit the impact of the top of the Cubs’ lineup.
Get the ball to the bullpen
During the series, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been untouchable. The relief staff has allowed only three baserunners all series by giving up only one walk and two hits. They have also not conceded a run. Meanwhile, the starters have given up all the runs, three of the four walks, and 13 of the 15 hits.
This discrepancy means that Alex Wood has a critical task tonight: do not serve up meatballs. The bullpen shortens the game for the Cubs’ offense and makes the team less patient. The Cubs will be more aggressive while Wood pitches since they know they have not hit well against anyone in the Dodgers’ pen, so they will swing more often and more aggressively with Wood in the game.
For Alex Wood, the approach from Chicago’s lineup means he has to have excellent command of his sinker and he has to work in his changeup and curveball effectively. If Wood hits his spots with his sinker, the Cubs hitters will end up hitting more ground balls. If he uses either his change-up or his curve effectively, then the Cubs’ hitters will make off-balanced swings and have issues making contact with the ball.
Stay patient at the dish
Throughout the series, the Dodgers have remained exceptionally patient at the plate. Over the first three games of the series, they have drawn 18 walks. As a team, they have seen 108 more pitches than Cubs while only having 13 more plate appearances than them. They have averaged 4.3 pitches per at-bat while the Cubs have averaged 3.78 pitches per at-bat while hitting.
For the offense to contribute adequately to completing the sweep, the Dodgers’ hitters must remain patient. Since the Cubs have not yet hit well off the Dodgers’ bullpen, they effectively have five or six innings to score enough runs to win the game.
But the Dodgers have nine innings to score runs. Even if the Cubs take an early lead, the Dodgers must remain disciplined at the plate. Swinging at tough pitches and having short at-bats will make the night much more comfortable for Jake Arrieta and the Chicago bullpen.
Stay focused on the task at hand
The mental aspect that comes along with a potential series-winning game can lead to a lack of focus, especially for a team playing as well as the Dodgers are. Los Angeles has won all six games they have played this postseason, so their confidence is probably the highest it has ever been. But they must remember they have not won the game yet. While the Cubs have not played well this series, they are also professional baseball players who are also trying to win. They must approach this game with the same hunger, energy, and focus they have shown throughout the playoffs.
The Dodgers have their foot on the throat of the Cubs, and they have reached this point with an outstanding bullpen and patient approach at the plate. If they complete the sweep, it will be because they remained focused and kept doing what has worked so far to finish the Cubs off tonight.
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